Downtown Grocer Coming

June 17, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The heart of downtown is finally getting something it has needed for a long time: a grocery store.

Brothers Jason and Ryan Wheeler and Andrew Armstrong have plans to open the Grand Central Market in the fall, likely in October, in the space formerly occupied by the Yen Ching restaurant at 57 Monroe Center.

The Grand Central Market will include a grocery store, a deli with a small seating area and a wine shop in its 3,250-square-foot storefront, as part of Front Row Condominiums.

The store will offer a wide variety of premium items, such as fresh baked goods and breads, gourmet pastries and chocolates, fresh deli meats, imported beers and wines, milk, dry goods, and fruits and vegetables from local growers and farmers.

The partners are in the process of mapping out what items they will stock as they get quotes from vendors. But it's a pretty sure bet that certain specialty goods currently not available downtown will be part of the store's inventory.

"With Yen Ching out of that space, it gave us an opportunity. So we're currently working with Rockford Development Group for a lease on the space," said Jason Wheeler, son of Rockford Co. CEO John Wheeler.

"We're trying to cater to the People's Building, the Front Row tenants, and some of the other condo projects that will be done in the next 24 months. We're trying to provide them with everything that they need, so they don't have to get into their car and drive to, say, Alpine Avenue," he said.

When the Grand Central Market opens it will nearly cap a retail revival of the three blocks that make up Monroe Center.

Adding the market to the recent openings of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shop, the Marado Japanese restaurant, the A Pear shoe store, An'gina's Boutique, West Coast Coffee, and The Olive Express means that almost all of the previously empty storefronts are now filled. And most of those vacant spaces have been filled by projects that Rockford has done, like the PeckBuilding and the Front Row Condominiums.

"Front Row on MonroeCenter is designed to be an appealing residential and retail development in the heart of downtown," said Mike Maier, Rockford Development Group president.

Jason Wheeler has marketed downtown projects for Rockford since he graduated from MichiganStateUniversity three years ago. Since then, what he has heard most often is how desperately downtown needed a grocery store, a pharmacy and a movie theater.

"We really spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about how we could cater to the people who are just now starting to move here, and how we could help revitalize the neighborhood there," he said.

"The grocery is the one thing that stuck in our minds. So we're very excited to be a part of this."    

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